Flat Earth

Arrogant? Moi?

We have it all wrong about Alain Juppe, apparently. One of the most unpopular French Prime Ministers in recent years, he is popularly perceived as an arrogant, humourless egghead without an ounce of political common sense, as both the polls and his nickname - "The Walking Computer" - show.

To dispel this image he submitted to a Hello-style spread in Paris Match last week, showing him in the bosom of his family. He also published a 116-page apologia, Between Ourselves, in which he discloses that he is more sensitive to criticism than he appears, and, while denying the charge of arrogance, promises to be "more accessible, more open to dialogue". (Presumably this would be dialogue of a more genteel kind than the incident which made him realise he needed to do something about his image: a well- dressed woman shouted "Death to the bastard!" on encountering him in the street.)

The lean, balding and hungry Juppe, who says President Jacques Chirac frequently advises him to put on weight if he wants to become more popular, attended the notoriously elitist Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), but denies he is a technocrat. At this institution, it now emerges, "I was very unhappy ... I came from a very modest background." Besides, he adds plaintively, being an ENA graduate "doesn't make you any less human".

Can one imagine a British PM being so pathetic? Is there no French equivalent for "stiff upper lip"? Sadly, I must inform you that, far from becoming a laughing stock, pauvre Alain's polls rating has risen five points. Maybe the French have the Prime Minister they deserve.

Title roles

Like the Germans and Austrians, the Czechs set great store by academic titles, and frequently refer to each other as "Mr Doctor", "Mr Engineer" or even "Mr Professor Engineer".

How embarrassing, then, when it emerged that several of the country's esteemed MPs have been just a touch economical with the truth when it comes to their academic qualifications.

The most senior figure to be rumbled was Jan Kalvoda, the leader of one of the junior coalition parties, who for years has been inaccurately putting himself about as a Doctor of Law. The humiliation of the discovery was too much for the one-time law student, who promptly told his startled colleagues that he was resigning from his position as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister.

So far Mr Kalvoda is one of only five MPs to have been caught embellishing their CVs, but a parliamentary commission is now investigating how many other bogus doctors, professors and engineers there may be.

The country's most celebrated intellectual, President Vaclav Havel, has no need to fear. As a dissident under Communism, he was forced to take manual jobs and not allowed to study for a degree. But as Lidove Noviny newspaper commented: "He made himself a name, not a title."

Nice he ain't

Political correctness has some way to go in Israel, if President Ezer Weizman is anything to judge by. Homosexuality, he told a group of high school pupils, "is abnormal from a social point of view", adding, somewhat unnecessarily, "I don't like it."

Weizman, typical of the blunt ex-generals who run Israeli politics, told his teenage audience that there were those "who tolerate the phenomenon", continuing in a mincing, high-pitched voice: "It has become `nice'."

Gay activists have already called on the president to resign, but they can hardly have been surprised at his attitudes. When he was asked a few years ago why Israel had no women air force pilots, he quipped: "The best men to the cockpit, the best women to the pilots."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower